Whiplash


Viewed – 13 November 2015  Blu-ray

Another movie that got a great deal of buzz around the time of the awards season, and nabbed a best supporting actor Oscar for J K Simmons.  This tells the story of a ‘prodige’ drummer Andrew Neiman (Miles Teller) who wants to be recognised for his skills and be a part of a respected jazz orchestra.  However in order to do that he must prove himself to renowned tutor and conductor Terence Fletcher (Simmons).  Only problem is, Fletcher is one tough cookie and uses controversial methods to get results.

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Simmons’ portrayal of this cruel and testing tutor is part Robin Williams in Dead Poets Society, part Lee R Ermy drill instructor in Full Metal Jacket.  This actor I first discovered in hard hitting HBO drama ‘Oz’ as the leader of an Arian Brotherhood Nazi gang – and he was unflinchingly cruel but also charming – something he lends to this powerful character.  Teller, looking like a young John Cusack deserves recognition too and is clearly a skilled drummer who brings his character plenty of emotion and at times crazy-determination to be taken seriously.  Director Damien Chazelle fills the movie with tension and well observed character moments that make both leads more than one dimensional stereotypes – despite his tough demeanour, Fletcher does end up coming across as a man who wants to achieve greatness with his students, and Neiman although at times ridiculously dedicated in the face of some pretty nasty treatment (let’s go to the rehearsal, despite having been in a car crash!) – you do understand him.

I’d have liked a bit more going on with the supporting characters … a love story felt under-explored and fellow band members rivalry or comradery is mostly ignored.  Yet this was an absorbing movie that although I felt was familiar, and didn’t really surprise me as it drew to it’s conclusion … had strong performances and solid enough direction to make for a firm recommendation.

Verdict:  4 /5

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